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City crime stable from 2012 to 2013
MONROE - Crime in Monroe last year was relatively stable from the year before, according to the Monroe Police Department's annual report.

The report, released this month, includes statistics, pin maps of crime in certain areas and a dissection of how the department worked for the 2013 year.

Chief Fred Kelley said his department consolidates a report every year, but finds it hard to keep it fresh and interesting each year.

"I added some pictures to try and break it up a little more," he said.

The report shows there were no dramatic spikes or changes in most of the statistics between 2012 and 2013: Murder remained at zero; rape decreased from four to three, robberies went from zero to two; vehicle theft rose from five to nine; and theft overall decreased from 274 to 216.

The police department received about 11,000 calls this year, the majority of them during the 3 to 11 p.m. shift.

Kelley said a large number of the calls involved some type of violence. There were also numerous calls about code violations, such as cars parked on lawns, neighbors not mowing lawns and calls about bats or birds in houses.

"We don't get a lot of robbery-in-progress calls," Kelley said. "We're lucky we don't have to go to crime, to crime, to crime, but we have to be prepared for it."

Kelley said there are typically about three officers on shift at any given time. There are 26 sworn officers who work in revolving shifts around the clock. These officers log where each individual crime occurs, and when they patrol areas. That data is transferred to a map of Monroe to show where problem sites are.

Police divide Monroe into three areas: downtown, east side and west side. Most crime reports tend to gravitate around the Square and its surrounding area; Kelley said that is probably due to the number of people who frequent the Square.

"If you have more congestion, the law of averages says it's more likely to occur," he said.

During any one shift, Kelley has officers go through the Square and specifically the parking ramp, in response to complaints that it is unsafe. But Kelley said claims that the parking ramp is a problem area are unsubstantiated, and that crime occurs there about as much as any other place.

"It's mostly petty crime and vandalism," he said. "Skateboarders will use it, and we try and chase them out of there too."

The department has started dedicating one officer to a school beat to help monitor each school in Monroe. Schools have asked for an officer to commit to working in the schools full time, and while the effort has been successful, the chief said he not ready to commit to that - at least not in 2014.

"Logistically it might be more complicated," he said.

The department used grants last year to help purchase speed radar machines and other traffic equipment to identify areas of concern. Police did issue more parking tickets, with revenue from tickets jumping from $21,045 to $27,317. But Kelley said he thinks this is more weather related than a stricter enforcement of parking.

"It's not like we're saying "go forth and write more tickets," he said.